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Smurfit boss hopeful of avoiding trade war in America

By John Mulligan

Smurfit Kappa's Mexican operations had a record year in 2016 despite US President Donald Trump's threats to build a wall between the nations and to slap punitive tariffs on imports from its poorer neighbour.

But Tony Smurfit, the Irish packaging group's chief executive, said he hopes the stand-off between the two countries doesn't escalate.

"The Republican Congress is pro trade, they should be pro trade. The idea of trade wars has been proven to be really bad. So I would hope that reason will prevail and we won't see a trade war," he told CNBC.

Mr Trump has suggested that tariffs of 20% could be levied on Mexican imports to the US to pay for the massive construction costs of a wall.

But such a move would see the price of many goods, which are manufactured in Mexico and sold to US consumers, skyrocket.

Smurfit Kappa chief financial officer Ken Bowles said that in the long term, political shifts in Europe and the Americas have little impact on the group's overall business.

"We're not put off by those sorts of things," he said, adding that Mexico was one of Smurfit Kappa's "star performers" last year.

The company's corrugated volumes in Mexico rose 6% last year, and it's completing an investment in a plant in Mexico City to support domestic demand.

Mr Bowles said: "We've a large Mexican domestic business which has been performing really well. It's very early days."

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